Older people without children may wish to designate a caregiver

Older adults who do not have children do not have the built-in support system from which many people with children benefit, which puts them at risk if they become ill or injured. In order to ensure they receive good care that is in alignment with their wishes, these individuals should designate a caregiver while they are still healthy.

This is especially important today, when the number of childless Americans is higher than in the past. In 2010, nearly 19 percent of women ages 40 to 44 had not given birth, compared with about 10 percent in 1980.

A healthcare power of attorney allows a person to appoint someone trusted, whether natural child or friend, to make medical decisions on his or her behalf in case the person is incapacitated. This can be combined with a financial power of attorney, which appoints a trusted individual to handle a person’s finances. Without these documents, it can take time for the court to appoint a guardian. The guardian may not be someone the individual even knows.

In addition to designating a caregiver, it is important for childless older adults to use these documents to make their wishes clear. For example, some people prefer to receive in-home care, while others would like to move to an assisted living facility if long-term care became necessary.

Many childless adults appoint their partners or siblings as their health care agents. However, this carries some risk if the other person is close in age. It is best to also appoint a backup caregiver as well, such as a niece, nephew or friend. It is essential to discuss these issues with the person appointed.

If there is no one available to serve as a healthcare agent, a bank or other company with a trustee department can be employed to make the arrangements.

The elder law attorneys at Hook Law Center assist Virginia families with will preparation, trust & estate administration, guardianships and conservatorships, long-term care planning, special needs planning, veterans benefits, and more. To learn more, visit http://www.hooklawcenter.com/ or call 757-399-7506.

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